Today, Metro announced plans to “realign” service on the Blue and Yellow lines (actually on the Orange line too, but we’ll get to that) as a way to relieve some of the pressure of people transferring between the Blue and Orange lines at Rosslyn, prepare for the Dulles Metro extension, and “realign service to match changing ridership market.” The changes are planned to take effect in June 2012, meaning you have plenty of time to think through the implications for your commute.
The full report and presentation are worth a read for you Metro geeks, but for those of you who just want to know how it’s going to affect you, here’s the summary: Metro is trying to get suburban riders out of your way.
During peak times, 1/3 of Blue Line trains will be rerouted across the Yellow Line bridge, continuing on to Greenbelt, which will divert a bunch of rush hour transfers to the Orange Line from Rosslyn, where they were causing crush problems, to L’Enfant Plaza, which is a larger station that can handle the volume better. This also means that 1/3 of peak Blue Line trains will be more or less Yellow Line trains with a different origin point.
To accommodate Orange Line riders who might otherwise have transferred at Rosslyn to those rerouted Blue Line trains, Metro will add 3 trains per peak hour, but those trains will go from West Falls Church to Largo Town Center instead of to New Carrolton. So at the eastern end of the line, the additional Orange Line trains will basically be Blue Lines.
The full report has tons of stats on what this change is intended to accomplish. I think the most telling stats are that at peak times and segments, the Passenger Per Car load on the Orange Line is 106, while other lines peak PPC ranges from 89-94. At 89, the Blue Line’s peak PPC is tied with Green for lowest. Metro’s desired peak PPC is <100, and this move is expected to reduce the Orange Line’s peak PPC to 90, while only increasing the Blue Line’s to 93.
If Metro’s projections are correct (and let’s be honest, that’s a big if, but most of us are not in a position to second-guess), it seems like a pretty effective way to reduce the Orange Crush, make the Blue Line more effective, and make transferring between lines easier.
Of course, it’s also change, and change is hard, particularly since this change strikes at the heart of what I consider to be one of the most important factors in Metro’s navigability: Metro trains only have one route. Oh sure, your Metro train may not go all the way to the end of the line, but it never takes off in a completely different direction than you expect. These changes will mean you may have to pay more attention to where your train terminates during rush hour.
Personally, I think that’s a small price to pay if the expected benefits materialize. Metro’s passenger studies determined that riders frequently use the screens on the front and side of trains to gain needed navigation information already, and that they were already accustomed to paying attention to endpoints, so they believe that an Orange Line train labeled “Largo” will be sufficient on a day-to-day basis (obviously there will be a huge communications blitz leading up to these changes).
But that’s my perspective as someone who recently gave up her car and does most of her weekday travel around the city by bus. Read the report and tell us what you think in the comments.